Anger: unrealistically high standards

Many of us are pretty tough on ourselves. We set ourselves such high standards high that even a saint might have difficulty in reaching them! And each time our performance fails to reach these unrealistically high standards we mentally criticise ourselves – with harsh, aggressive self-talk.

Living by their rules

What is often occurring here is that we are living according to other’s rules. Over the years, and particularly during our childhood years, we acquire lots of standards or ‘rules to live by’ from our parents, brothers or sisters, teachers, religious mentors, etc.

And, once acquired, we often accept these rules as being ‘the right way’ of doing things. We don’t subject them to on-going evaluation.

One result of this is that mature adults are often trying to live fulfilling lives with the beliefs and standards of a 6-year old, not because we want to do this but because…

… we have never updated our standards to suit our adult lifestyle.

Get it right!

So, for example, the childhood lesson to ‘get it right every time’ that’s a pretty tough standard to try to live up to in adult life. As is the lesson: ‘if a thing is worth doing it’s worth oing right’

Trying to live up to these lessons or beliefs in adult life is going to ensure we don’t try new things very often because to do so will guarantee that we fall short of our learned perfectionist tendency.

Don’t upset people!

Other out-dated beliefs that are often carried over from childhood include: ‘Don’t upset people’ or ‘A tidy house is the sign of a good parent’ or ‘You must win every time’.

We see the irrationally of our old beliefs

When they are brought out into the cold light of day we can usually see how irrational are these old legacy beliefs. But just doing that once or twice does not defuse them.

You need a more consistent programme – where you are observing them in action and reminding yourself on a daily basis of how silly they are. Remember that beliefs work at an emotional level. To defuse them by yourself you need to do so very frequently – taking just one silly belief at a time and dealing with it until it fades in importance.

How out-dated beliefs provoke self criticism

Unless I have challenged them my learned childhood beliefs will rule me. And every time I transgress one of them I undermine my self esteem. I fall short of the impossibly high inherited standards and, to try and get myself to meet these standards, I criticise myself – after all, that’s how my parents or teachers tried to get me to meet them.

If I rate myself against impossible or unrealistic standards and then continually criticise myself this is going to result in on-going anger and frustration with myself: you’re just useless! No can never do anything right! You stupid etc. etc.

This builds, accumulates and ferments. And soon it becomes directed outwards, too. I am so annoyed with myself that I ‘take it out’ on others and respond to their failings and misdemeanours with unnecessary fury.